On 90th anniversary, IAF aircraft captivate with thunderous flypast in Chandigarh

From vintage Dakota transport aircraft to recently inducted light combat helicopter Prachand, over 84 aircraft showcased the prowess of the Indian Air Force (IAF) during a dazzling flypast over Sukhna Lake on Saturday to celebrate IAF’s 90th anniversary.

The grand event was presided over by President Droupadi Murmu, with defence minister Rajnath Singh, Punjab and Haryana governors Banwarilal Purohit and Bandaru Dattatreya, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher and mayor Sarbjit Kaur, along with IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari also in attendance.

The flypast illustrated a range of aircraft, including Rafale, Prachand, MiG-29, Su-30 MKI, Jaguar, Tejas, Chinook, Apache, Harvard and Mi-17, in vivid and varying formations. The spectacular air show began with a performance by the Akash Ganga paratroopers team, which was followed by a Bambi Bucket operation by an Mi-17 aircraft and versatile manoeuvres by Chinook helicopters. While some formations were performed before the arrival of the President, most of them, including crowd-favourite aerobatics by Suryakiran and Sarang teams, were showcased thereafter.

The IAF had decided to organise this year’s annual Air Force Day parade and flypast in Chandigarh, an unprecedented departure from the annual celebrations in Delhi NCR.

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Vintage aircraft charm spectators

Enrapt audience had their gaze stuck towards the sky when vintage aircraft Harvard made its flight over the lake. The trainer aircraft, which was decommissioned in 1989, became a part of the heritage flight family after restoration in 2015. Ever since, the aircraft has participated in IAF Day flypast at Hindon, Delhi NCR and on Saturday in Chandigarh.

The Dakota aircraft – remembered for playing a sterling role in the history of IAF – was also flown over the lake as a party of flypast. During the famous Budgam landings in October 1947, the aircraft had moved troops to Kashmir and was also used during the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

The spectators were also enthralled by the newly inducted, indigenous light combat helicopter Prachand that flew in a three-aircraft formation. It was inducted by the IAF on Monday at a ceremony in Jodhpur in the presence of Union defence minister Rajnath Singh and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari.

View dulled by clouds

Although the flypast went about smoothly, the cloudy weather on Saturday made the view hazy, compared to the rehearsals held on Thursday when the sky was clear.

Better services

Many spectators had complained of lack of adequate facilities, including drinking water, during the rehearsal on Thursday. However, they acknowledged that the facilities during the final event were much better.

Commuters stuck in a jam at Madhya Marg in Chandigarh on Saturday. (Sanjeev Sharma/HT )

Traffic chaos order of the day again

In a unpleasant reminder of the rehearsal day, long queues of vehicles were again seen on Madhya Marg amid road restrictions around Sukhna Lake, leaving hundreds of commuters harried.

To allow smooth movement of CTU buses ferrying spectators to the venue, the traffic police had restricted several roads around the lake, including Sector 1/3/4 Chowk (Old Barricade Chowk) to Sector 5-6/7-8 Chowk (Hira Singh Chowk) on Sarovar Path; Sector 3-4/9-10 Chowk (New Barricade Chowk) on Vigyan Path towards Hira Singh Chowk and St Kabir Singh light point towards Chandigarh Golf Club up to Hira Singh Chowk.

While the situation was much better managed in the afternoon, as most offices and schools were closed for Saturday, the situation went out of control in the evening as spectators left the lake. Traffic snarls were witnessed as far as the Sector 17 roundabout, with vehicles moving at a snail’s pace at multiple intersections, despite the presence of over 4,000 cops on the ground for security and traffic management.

Daily passengers bear the brunt of CTU shuttle service

With around 400 buses pressed into service to ferry spectators between the alighting points and Sukhna Lake, regular CTU passengers again faced a hard time travelling across the tricity.

Huge rush of passengers was seen at the ISBTs in Sectors 17 and 43, as CTU’s normal services remained unavailable on most routes from 10.30 am to 8 pm, just like on Thursday.

Commuters also complained that autos and cabs doubled their fares in the absence of bus services.

“Being a Saturday, my office in Sector 43 allowed us half-day off. So, I got off from work at 3 pm. But there was no bus available to reach back home in Kharar. Cab service was available for only 320 and up and auto-rickshaw drivers were demanding 250. Eventually, I waited for 50 minutes to get a bike taxi, which charged 150,” said Aishwariya Kapoor.

Monu, a daily wage labourer, said, “I am presently working at an under-construction house in Sector 82, Mohali. I reach work daily on a CTU bus service from the Sector-43 ISBT and return from there at 5.30 pm. But on Saturday, I couldn’t get a bus and was forced to take a shared auto service, as I cannot afford a cab or independent auto.”

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